For as long as I can remember, all the way back to the beginning of my memories, I’ve been called bossy.
It’s always been a negative word, something used to describe me in a dramatic and non complimentary way. I got so used to hearing it in my school reports, by family, that I took it on myself and started to actively tell people I was bossy before they could reach that conclusion themselves. In case they discovered this piece of information and wondered how on earth they could be friends with such a monster.
The funny thing is, bossy is predominately a feminine adjective. Have you ever heard the male of the species being called bossy? I am going to bet my backside you have not, because this, dear readers, is how the Cambridge Dictionary defines the word:
She’s strong without being bossy.
Stop being so schoolmarmish and bossy!
My older sister was very bossy.
Girls of that age can get quite bossy.
What hope do we have when a simple word like bossy becomes purely about women? Boys are just confident, strong, they know their own minds. But us females, we’re just getting ideas above our station, bless us!
I don’t doubt for one second that I was a bossy child, in that I (assumed) I knew what was the best way to do some things, and I didn’t see a problem in sharing my views with others. Because, that’s what everyone else did so why wouldn’t I? I had a brain, a voice, I was quite happy to use them.
My bossiness was never about trying to exert my power over other people, I’m not even sure bossiness in a child can be about power at all, it’s more about finding your voice, standing up for what you believe in and being brave enough to stand by that. Something that is, sadly, all to often fleeting, and for me, was replaced by feelings of self-doubt and insecurity in my adult years.
I absolutely hated being called bossy when I was child. Every single time it was used to describe me, in person or in writing, it would kick start a bubble of rage deep inside. It didn’t help that I had bright red hair, because, of course, that made me even bossier. The MC1R gene giving me more than just pale skin, blue eyes and hair the colour of the sun, it was also giving me the inability to listen to other people and go, full steam ahead, into everything I did.
The people who decided I was bossy never used it to hurt me, it was more a “oh look at her, there she goes again” eye rolling kind of way. Always (from my parents anyway!) said in love.
But for me, the word bossy wasn’t something I wanted to be, I didn’t want to be that difficult child, the spoilt brat who wouldn’t listen to anyone else, I knew that wasn’t who I was. But, because I knew my own mind and wasn’t afraid to say it, I was given a label that didn’t feel like it belonged, I was never proud of it.
Looking back, I wish I could speak to that bossy little redhead and tell her to hold tight. That being ‘bossy’ wasn’t a bad thing, it just meant that I was passionate and assertive and those characteristics would serve me well growing up. And the word, with all it’s negative connotations, was just a word. It didn’t have the power to label me in any negative way, I could be proud of being bossy. I could have and should have rolled with it!
Now, when I see my kids standing up for what they believe in, arguing back, in a respectful and kind way, I am so bloody proud. I am all over that ‘bossy’ gene being passed down and getting a little face lift in the next generation. Just by changing the way we think of one tiny word, we’re giving a whole generation a chance to revel in their power and strength and use it for good. Greta Thunberg is out there fighting to change the future of our planet, and we still have people trying to shoot her down, calling her out for being a bossy little madam. If she’s the definition of bossy then I am perfectly OK with my kids seeing that and aspiring to be like her!
There is nothing wrong with being bossy. But there is a whole lot wrong with the way it’s being used, even now. It’s not purely for the girls, boys can be bossy too! Times are changing, and we have to make sure our vocabulary changes with it. Either call all sexes bossy, or none.
Newsflash! You don’t need a vagina to be in the bossy club.